Cornelius ready to replace Rudolph as Oklahoma State QB
By CLIFF BRUNT
For the first time in more than three years, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy will have a new starting quarterback.
Mason Rudolph started 41 games for the Cowboys and left with many of the most significant school records.
Taylor Cornelius appears ready to step in. The 6-foot-6, 232-pound senior has taken control of the position during the spring.
"He's doing really well," Gundy said. "He's been around here forever and his strength is his knowledge of our offense. He throws the ball around pretty well and he has nice size. The only thing we don't know is how well he'll handle playing in games."
Though Cornelius has only passed for 220 yards and rushed for 108 in his career, the transition has been seamless. He knows much of his work will go beyond throwing the ball.
"I am trying to be a bigger role model and a leader for this group because I am the older guy," he said. "So those have been big things for me this spring."
Washington was the Biletnikoff Award winner last season, and Marcell Ateman gained more than 1,100 yards receiving. Though both are gone, the Cowboys are still loaded at that spot, with Jalen McCleskey, Dillon Stoner and Tyron Johnson still around. McCleskey has 152 career receptions and 15 touchdowns. Stoner caught 44 passes as a freshman last season. Johnson, a junior, was a five-star prospect coming out of high school who finally will have the stage.
"We're pretty good," Johnson said. "We're going to fly under the radar. A lot of people will think we're not that good because we lost some big targets to the draft, but that's how it goes. We reloaded and we have a lot of talented receivers that have to get on the same page as the quarterbacks and learn the plays."
All-Big 12 pick Marcus Keyes is back, but the Cowboys need to fill spots left by Zack Crabtree (46 career starts), Brad Lundblade (41) and Aaron Cochran (29). Arlington Hambright, a junior college transfer, bears watching. Right guard Larry Williams is trying to get a sixth year of eligibility, but a decision has not been made. He was lost early last season with an ankle injury.
There's been some hype about Hubbard. The Canadian came to Oklahoma State as a raw prospect who redshirted last season, but now looks like he might be able to steal some carries from returning all-conference pick Justice Hill and his talented backups, J.D. King and LD Brown.
"We like where Chuba (Hubbard) is at," Gundy said. "Hubbard has never played in a game, so we don't know, but I'm fairly confident that we have four guys who can play at this level."
Justice Hill has proven he can run with the ball - he has 2,609 yards rushing in two seasons at Oklahoma State. Now, his role as a receiver will be expanded. He caught 31 passes for 190 yards last season.
"You have to learn the whole route tree, the combinations, reading safeties," he said. "It's something new, something I need to work on. So it has been fun this spring, just getting to learn this system and learning a different position."
The Cowboys return nine defensive starters, but they'll play for a new coordinator in Jim Knowles. He was defensive coordinator at Duke for eight years before joining the Oklahoma State staff and was head coach at Cornell from 2004-2009.
"Watching him coach and his approach has me very encouraged with the relationship he's built with the team on that side of the ball," Gundy said. "He's highly intelligent, he has a unique way of developing relationships with players and I'm encouraged by that part of the game."
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Updated April 24, 2018